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How to Evict a Tenant in California (7 Steps)

Evicting a tenant in California is possible with one of five circumstances, all of which involve either a type of lease breach or simply terminating a month-to-month tenancy. In each case, it is against the law for landlords to remove tenants from a property on their own and without first delivering a notice, bringing a complaint to the Superior Court, and finally, obtaining a court order for the tenant to move out.1

Laws Chapter 4 (Summary Proceedings for Obtaining Possession of Real Property in Certain Cases [1159 – 1179a]

How to Evict

Step 1: Send an Eviction Notice 

Once a violation has been identified, the landlord must first deliver their written Notice to Quit. This will inform the tenant of their violation and the landlord’s intent for that violation to either be cured or declare that the landlord intends to pursue the eviction process in California’s Superior Court. 

  • Non-Payment of Rent (3-Day Notice to Quit) If a tenant has not paid rent, the landlord must deliver written notice of the outstanding amount along with the specific dates rent is overdue and all options available to them for repayment in the 72-hour period.2
  • Illegal Activity (3-Day Notice to Quit) – Illegal activity committed by the tenant warrants a 3-day incurable notice, which means that the tenant does not have an opportunity to remedy the issue.
  • Non-Compliance — Curable (3-Day Notice to Quit) When a tenant is in violation of their lease agreement but the problem can be fixed (is curable), the notice must ask the tenant to correct the violation or move out.3
  • Non-Compliance — Incurable (3-Day Notice to Quit) — When a tenant breaches the terms of their lease and the violation cannot be cured, such as a tenant doing something illegal, the tenant may still challenge the eviction. However, this does not mean a landlord is obligated to continue the lease. Causing damage in a way that lowers the value of the rental property, threatening the health or safety of other tenants, and moving in other tenants without the landlord’s permission are all examples of potentially incurable violations.4
  • Month-to-Month (30-Day Notice to Quit) — If a tenant has lived on the property for less than a year and occupies a month-to-month tenancy, the landlord must provide 30 days’ notice if they wish to terminate the ongoing agreement.5
  • Month-to-Month (60-Day Notice to Quit) If a landlord wishes to terminate a month-to-month lease with a tenant that has lived in the property for more than one year, they must provide a minimum of 60 days notice to vacate.6

Step 2: Wait to Hear from the Tenant 

In the case that a violation can be cured and the tenant wishes to maintain their lease, an agreement can be made without pursuing further steps in the eviction process. If you file the eviction case in court before the notice runs out, the court will dismiss the case.7 If the violation was non-payment of rent and the tenant has paid their past-due balance in full, the lease automatically stays in place.8

Step 3: File in Court 

The landlord is required to complete and file the following forms: 

Step 4: Serve the Tenant

A tenant can be served Unlawful Detainer Papers in the following ways: 

  • Personal Service — A server gives the tenant the Summons and Complaint in person. 
  • Substituted Service — A server delivers the Summons and Complaint to a competent member of the household other than the tenant or delivers to their place of work when the tenant is not home. A copy of the Summons and Complaint must also be mailed to the tenant at the address where the papers were left. The server will have to prove they exercised by attempting to serve the tenant personally but were unsuccessful at least two or three times. 
  • Posting and Mailing — With permission from the court, the landlord must post a copy of the Summons and Complaint where the tenant can see it as well as mailing a copy to the address. This is only allowed by the court after the landlord has tried to serve the tenant in person and by substituted service without success.11

Step 5: Attend a Trial 

If the tenant has responded to their summons and filed their answer with the court, the landlord may ask for a trial date by filing a Request to Set Case for Trial — Unlawful Detainer.

At the trial, you should be prepared to present the lease, notice(s) served to the tenant, any written correspondence with the tenant, photos of any relevant damage (if applicable), or building reports (if applicable). 

Step 6: Judgment 

If the judge orders in favor of the landlord, the tenant still has the right to stop or delay the eviction by immediately asking for a stay of execution.12

Step 7: Repossessing the Property 

Once a writ of execution has been issued, the court will direct the sheriff or marshall to enforce any judgment.13 The sheriff will then issue a notice to the tenant that they have 5 days to leave the unit. 

Evictions in California: Video


  1. https://www.courts.ca.gov/27701.htm
  2. https://www.courts.ca.gov/27810.htm
  3. § 1161(3)
  4. § 1161(4)
  5. § 1946.1
  6. § 1946.1
  7. https://www.courts.ca.gov/27723.htm
  8. § 1161(2)
  9. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/52b7d7a6e4b0b3e376ac8ea2/t/5b1273ca0e2e72ec53ab0655/1527935949227/CA_Evictions_are_Fast_and_Frequent.pdf
  10. https://www.occourts.org/general-public/fee-schedule/index.html#civil_limited
  11. https://www.courts.ca.gov/28666.htm
  12. https://www.courts.ca.gov/28667.htm
  13. https://www.courts.ca.gov/11190.htm?rdeLocaleAttr=en